Anaheim Prepares To Push Out $8 Million To Help Struggling Residents Amid Coronavirus Shut-Down
By: Alicia Robinson
Date: March 27, 2020
“City leaders are still working out the details, but in the coming days and weeks Anaheim is expected to disburse up to $8 million to help nonprofits, the homeless, residents and city employees affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The City Council on Thursday approved a $15 million “economic recovery plan” touted by Mayor Harry Sidhu. The remaining up to $6.5 million that’s not for direct aid to the community will mainly go to help the city’s tourism bureau market Anaheim as a travel destination and rebook canceled events at the Convention Center.
City spokesman Mike Lyster said in an email Friday that the plan “unfolded in real time, and our implementation is also unfolding in real time and will play out in days to come.”
The Anaheim Community Foundation, which works with local nonprofits that serve the community and also helps low-income residents with rent and utility bills, will get $2 million of the city aid money to benefit seniors and families in need.
Foundation Executive Director John Guastaferro said Friday that at the moment, “meals and food are the biggest needs, and that goes across demographics and across locations.”
Families are also asking for basic necessities they either can’t find at local stores or can’t afford, he said.
Foundation officials plan to create a rapid-response grant program that will allow nonprofits to apply online and have their requests reviewed quickly, Guastaferro said.
Lyster said officials are now considering how best to use the other $6 million to help the homeless, people who have lost their jobs or seen reduced pay and others.
“We are evaluating whether we expand the recently created Senior Safety Net program, create a new program, or both,” he said. “City funding for community needs will unfold in stages next week and beyond.”
Officials expect Anaheim to be particularly hard hit by the widespread economic shutdown due to the coronavirus. Not only does the city depend heavily on tax dollars from hotels and other tourism-dependent businesses, but many residents work in the visitor-serving industry.
While Anaheim council members seem unanimous in their support of direct aid to struggling residents, they argued over the usefulness of spending $6.5 million on marketing efforts, particularly when it’s unknown how soon business and leisure travel will begin to recover.
“We need to prime the pump and be ready to go,” Sidhu told the council Thursday night. “I’m proposing this because I want our people to get their jobs back faster.”
But Councilwoman Denise Barnes, who abstained from voting on the aid package, questioned why taxpayer dollars should go to benefit businesses such as large hotels that may already have cash for emergencies.
“I cannot in good conscience give our reserves to private businesses that have their own operating reserves,” she said.
The $8 million in local direct aid will be drawn from the city’s $40 million operating reserve. The marketing funds will come from a convention center reserve account.
The city will draft an agreement with Visit Anaheim, the tourism bureau, that will include performance goals, officials said.
“The mayor asked us what would position Anaheim to be the first destination to come back online once public health allowed, and we took that request seriously,” Visit Anaheim CEO Jay Burress said a written statement. “We stand ready to continue our decades long partnership with the city and kick start job recovery and revenue for Anaheim.”